a Sunday kind of love

*This was originally posted on the old sixburners site in February 2008, back when I wasn’t yet naming Ed or Kristina.*

One night when the Engineer and I were still dating, he put on Etta James as the backdrop for our conversation. Each song was more perfect than the one before. He sang along on some of the more playful tracks. We laughed, we snuggled.

If we had been inclined to have dancing at our wedding last summer, our First Dance song would have been At Last. The way that soul-filled violin opens the tune, Etta’s raw, emotional voice… pure romance.

Etta has so many greats: The Love of My Man, Trust in Me, If I Can’t Have You, the list goes on. And then there’s A Sunday Kind of Love… a love to last past Saturday night, more than love at first sight.

You know what she’s talking about – the comfort, the ease, the playfulness when you know there’s no need to impress someone, when you can just trust that it’s all good.

Saturday night dinners – entertaining dinners, multi-step entrées, complicated desserts, fancy cocktails – these all have their place. On Saturday night.

Not on Sunday morning. Sunday morning calls for something simpler, quieter. Something more like a Sunday kind of love – comfortable, easy, playful even. Something you can trust.

Sunday morning calls for Dutch Baby – that fluffy, puffy, easy pancake that emerges from the oven as impressive as any complicated dessert, but requires so little forethought that you could prepare it while sleep-deprived, hungover, or reading a book.

We used to have it a lot – with peaches, apples, pears, or a combination. After my celiac diagnosis, I thought Dutch Baby had joined the ranks of Food I Would Never Have Again, in company with bagels, croissants, and crusty French bread.

I’ve since learned a lot about gluten-free cooking and baking. To be sure, some things just aren’t the same without gluten. Other items are indistinguishable from their glutened counterparts. And some things are better.

We’ve decided that Dutch Baby is even better.

This was a happy accident. I wasn’t even going to try for a gluten-free version of this brunch treat, but the Teenager encouraged me to go for it. It turns out the lift in the dish doesn’t come from the gluten, but from the eggs. Be sure to whisk them up well.

The gluten-free flours seem to rise more easily than the whole wheat/white flour mix I used to use. The pancake puffs beautifully, and then settles into a delicate custard, plenty strong enough to support the fruit. We have pronounced it a success.

For an extra treat, I pour seedless raspberry puree from a squirt bottle onto the plate, and then more on top of each slice. Some might call this decadent and overdone. I call it delicious.

Time to relax – enjoy Sunday.

Dutch Baby

I use an old Wagner cast iron pan for this dish – the size depends on how many I want to serve, or how greedy we feel. The cast iron heats up quickly and gives a wonderful brown crust to the pancake. The measurements before the ingredients are for a size 8 pan, the end ones for a size 10.

Update: When I first shared this recipe, I used regular volume cup measures. With gluten-free flours, it is much more important to bake by weight. Here’s why. Also, I now use my own gluten free flour blend (96 or 126 gms total), with results I prefer. YMMV

Pancake (base, custard, giant popover, whatever)

3 tbsp butter (4)
3 eggs (4)
3/4 cup milk (or plain soy) (1)
32 gms brown rice flour (sweet rice flour also works here) (42 gms)
32 gms potato starch (you could use tapioca starch, but we’ve noticed a funky aftertaste) (42 gms)
32 gms teff flour (or millet flour) (42 gms)
1/4 tsp salt (1/2)

Fruit topping

3 large apples, pears, peaches, it’s all good (4)
2 tbsp butter (3)
2-3 tbsp brown sugar (we like muscovado) (3-4)
1 tsp vanilla (1)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon (lots of shakes, I’ve never measured cinnamon)
2 tbsp water or calvados or grand marnier, depending on your audience (3)

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F.

Prepare batter: whisk eggs + milk together in a largish bowl. Go to town on this step.

Add flours + salt, and whisk until smooth. This will be about the consistency of whipping cream.

Place the (pancake amount) butter in a large heavy oven-proof skillet and place in the oven. When the butter bubbles, but isn’t too brown, remove the pan from the oven and pour in the batter. The butter will rise up the side and some will spread over top of the batter – this will give it a nice golden cap.

Bake 20 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.

While the batter bakes, peel and slice the fruit – I prefer thin slices as they flash cook more evenly. Sauté them in butter in a second skillet (doesn’t need to be oven proof).

Add the brown sugar + cinnamon + vanilla and cook until tender – some texture is good here, you don’t want mush.

Add water (or liqueur) if the sugar thickens up too much while you wait for the batter to be finished – it’s nice to have a little sauce on the pancake.

Serve immediately to a captive audience. Try fruit puree or icing sugar on the plate for added panache.

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